Mar 18, 2007

My Austin Adventure

On Friday March 9, I grabbed some scones off the kitchen counter that Livy had baked the day before. She called them "hocky pucks" because she wasn't happy with the consistency. They looked good to me and I was in a hurry so I shoved them in my backpack. The plan was to take BART from downtown Berkeley to Mission and 16th in San Francisco to meet Jack. From there we'd head to Texas via SFO. I told Jack not to worry because I had packed some hocky puck scones.

We arrived in Austin at about 6:30pm central time and headed immediately to the Austin Convention Center. Twitter was sponsoring SXSW this year with two HD Plasma displays that would animate attendees' updates in the hallways between sessions and we needed to make sure they worked with our special application before the conference began on Saturday morning.

Upon arrival, we discovered that the powerful plasma screens were hooked up to low-end personal computers. Our application had been designed for High Definition but the computers couldn't handle it. This meant that everything looked all crazy and we had to futz with screen resolutions for three hours. As midnight approached, Jack spotted my backpack and inquired, "Hey. Um. Do you have those hocky pucks?"

The scones helped us get the screens set up and finally we headed to the historic Hotel Driscoll for a very late check-in. Rather than call it a night, we decided to walk down sixth street and see if we could get some dinner. The only place still serving food was a bar called "Paradise." We asked the waitress to bring us "Two of your finest margaritas and a couple of menus." She brought us the margaritas plus two Miller Lite beers. In Texas, my pronunciation of "Menu" sounds like 'Miller."

We eventually ordered food and who should show up at the very same bar? Noah Glass! Upon arriving in Austin, Noah had immediately bought a bicycle outside the airport and rode into town. Sweaty and larger than life, Noah grabbed one of our Miller's and ordered a big Texas meal. When a lady dressed up as a giant can of Miller Lite came over to Noah and gave him free beer, we knew it was time to move on.

Dancing Friday night away may have been in the cards for Noah but not for Jack and I so we headed back to the Driscoll. Saturday morning came moments later and we were back at the convention center turning on the plasma screens. Unfortunately we were having technical difficulties--this time with a server back in San Francisco. With a growing mob of onlookers and help from the guys back at Twitter HQ we switched some things around in the code and got the visualizer working. It looked awesome and people were starting to Twitter already.

Saturday March 10 was going by in such a blur that I almost forgot it was my birthday. Evan, Jason, and Alex showed up and before long it was time for dinner. We met up with Ms dana boyd, Eric, and Pete and headed to dinner at Manuel's. It was a long wait but worth it, the margaritas and gourmet mexican food were del.icio.us! Afterwards, we headed to the outskirts of town for a party being thrown by our friends Narendra and Lane. It was a sketchy neighborhood but the party was huge! There must have been 300 people drinking beer, dancing, and playing old-skool video games set up outside.

Jack's phone was all twittered out. His battery finally died around the same time I felt like laying down on the ground and falling asleep. It was late and I couldn't chat with anyone else, so I took a cab back to the Hotel. I sent out a Twitter update asking someone to tell Jack that I'd left. Unfortunately, I left too early.

It turns out that Narendra had found me a beautiful chocolate cake and Jack stormed the stage and announced to everyone that it was my birthday. He asked me to come on stage so they could all sing for me. Instead, someone came up with a phone and read my Twitter out loud. Yes, I was lame. Jack told me they sang anyway--they didn't need me.

Sunday was sort of a normal conference day. I even managed to attend a panel about design workflow. I'm not really sure what the rest of the guys were up to but we all met up in the evening for the SXSW Web Awards. Twitter was nominated so we had to get their early for a casual little press conference. As we waited for the awards to start, we suddenly thought, "What if we win? We need a speech!" It was decided that we should keep it really short.

Ze Frank was the host of the awards this year and he was killing as usual. It's hard to explain the feeling but suddenly it felt as if were were definitely going to be walking on stage to accept the award. I was wondering how I'd get out of the row I was seated in when it happened: Twitter won! We all jumped over the backs of our seats and started walking toward the stage. Ze told us to "hurry up!" so we ran up and Jack took the microphone to deliver the acceptance speech we had just written: "We'd like to thank you all in 140 characters or less. And we just did!"

We were then ushered offstage and interviewed a bit more. Incidentally, both times we were interviewed the reporter told us they were on Twitter. That was cool. We were still nominated for another award--The People's Choice. Jack and Jason stayed to make sure were didn't win while Evan and myself made haste toward Club de Ville and the annual Blogger party. We arrived to late to get in on this year's Blogger schwag: Scarves!

It was raining like crazy during the party and Club de Ville is mostly an outside venue so we were all crowded under the roof. I wanted to buy Henry Copland a beer so I tapped the bartender on the shoulder. He whirled around and said, "Never touch me again." That's when I recognized him as the same guy who wouldn't let me in to the Blogger party last year. I don't think that guy likes his job.

That night there were many parties. We made it to a few and ended up going for a really late snack at a diner called Ma.gnolia. I had a gigantic hummus wrap and I wasn't even hungry. I'm not ashamed to admit it: That was a mistake. Then we had to hail a cab in the rain. We rode back to the hotel while the thunder boomed and lightning streaked across the sky.

Early Monday morning I got up in time to watch Evan struggle to stay awake during his 10am panel about user generated content. He had some smart things to say but I could tell he was barely hanging in there. Too bad Mike Arrington wasn't moderating. I also attended a very creative talk comparing Ghengis Kahn's techniques to startups. Sounded like the beginnings of a bestselling book with more detail and polish.

On Monday night Eric (currently product manager for Blogger at Google), Evan, and myself had a quiet dinner at a family restaurant called the Spaghetti Warehouse which actually has the domain meatballs.com if you can believe it. Awesome. Our waiter's name was Lucky and he was psyched that Evan and I each ordered a glass of the Sangiovese because that was the featured drink for the waitstaff and it meant he just pulled out ahead in the competition. I only ordered a second glass to help him out, I swear.

The rest of Monday night we used Twitter to find out which party we should switch to but I had the most fun chatting with my new friend Laura from Adaptive Path at some place on sixth street that I had to buy a magazine subscription to get into. Towards the end of the night folks wanted to go to some fancy dance destination. I was pooped upon three times on the way there by grackles--a local bird with some serious attitude. I wasn't allowed in to the establishment because I didn't have the magic ticket but we did a video interview with Tony Pierce outside the club.

Eventually, us guys ended up chatting late night in the lobby of the Hotel Driscoll. The whole time I smelled like poop. Nevertheless, it was fun. Eventually we all turned in so we could wake up for the last day of our SXSW adventure.

Tuesday was our last day and we needed to get to the Austin airport by 3pm. Forunately, there was enough time to catch most of Will Right, game designer presenting and amazing demo of his newest creation, SPORE along with his thoughts on what stories really mean. Our flight homeward was massively delayed and we missed our connection but eventually Jack and I arrived back at SFO by midnight and I got to Berkeley by about 1am and collapsed, exhausted.

Tons of other stuff happened but that is my stream of consciousness recap of our Austin Adventure. If you've never gone to SXSW, I highly recommend it.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Good times. One day I am going to get back to SXSW.